Warning of bus service cuts for Bristol transport

More bus services across Bristol and Somerset could be cut if government support is not extended beyond the March cliff edge, a major operator has warned.

First West of England is currently running 90% of its services compared to before the pandemic, but with a third fewer passengers.

Chief executive Doug Claringbold said government funding has helped the industry break even, but without it the challenges are unsustainable.

Speaking on BBC Radio Bristol on January 17, he said: ‘If the funding isn’t there we’re going to have to look carefully at the services we run because it’s not viable to run 90 per cent of the services with 63 % cent of the fare box.

“This is a really serious moment for the bus industry.

“The West of England Combined Authority supports services across the region. We have a big challenge. We are lobbying, as are the Combined Authority and many MPs to gain support for the network beyond April.

First announced a series of changes from January 30, with services cut, reduced or rerouted.

Bus route 37 between Bath and Bristol via Hanham and Longwell Green is among those to be discontinued from January 30.

Councilors in Bath and North East Somerset said further cuts in service would be a “big blow” with Cabinet Member Sarah Warren warning: “Once lost, the risk is that they will not be replaced. ”

At Portishead, the X3, X3a and X4 services will be replaced by a modified version of the X4, which will not operate through Marina after continuing issues with parked vehicles resulting in multi-year delays.

Portishead City Council Vice-Chairman Paul Gardner said the loss of services at the marina left elderly and vulnerable residents feeling ‘trapped in their flats’, while elsewhere residents would be unable to get to at Weston College or Gordano School.

Mr Claringbold said he was ‘deeply sorry’ to those inconvenienced by the changes and was willing to attend a public meeting in Portishead to discuss the matter.

He added: “We targeted a number of changes in January. Part of the changes are aimed at significantly improving the reliability of our network.

“We are making plans – if there is no additional funding or support, we will have no choice but to make bigger changes to the network.

“We strive to get the best network for customers. Take 37 – just because a service has operated this way for many years doesn’t mean it should continue in its current format.

“People make different travel choices. We must respond to current needs.

“What’s really optimistic is the commitment to spend money on infrastructure around the buses.”

Melvin Z. Madore